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Train at least 700 mental health specialist GPs by 2020, recommends taskforce

Some 700 new mental health specialist GPs should be trained up and working in the NHS over the next five years, recommends an independent review of mental health in England.

The Mental Health Taskforce report - published today - recommends that all GPs receive 'core mental health training’ by 2020/21 and recommends the introduction of hundreds of new ’GPs with an extended Scope of Practice in Mental Health’ or 'GPwERs’.

The landmark report - commissioned to look at the mental health care that the NHS provides in England - also recommends practices are given the ‘time they need’ to carry out thousands more physical health checks in patients with mental health problems.

The NHS in England says it intends to invest over £1bn a year of additional funding in mental health care by 2020/21 to reach one million more people.

But mental health services have suffered years of cuts, with Pulse revealing that child and adolescent health services in particular were finding it hard to cope with reduced funding, leaving GPs to cope with diagnosing and treating mental health disorders outside their level of competance.

In July 2014, Pulse reported that a fifth of GPs have seen patients come to harm as they were unable to access appropriate support from their community mental health teams, with some patients committing suicide, being sectioned or admitted as a result.

The taskforce report found that the rate of suicides was rising after many years of decline, with suicide now the leading cause of death for men aged 15 to 49. Many were found to to have contacted with their GP or other health services before their deaths.

The report recommends a ‘fresh mindset’ in the health service, prioritising mental health as much as physical health and says there should be a 'major drive’ to reduce suicide by 10% by 2020/21.

It also recommends a dramatic widening of access to psychological therapies for people with common mental health problems, from 15% of adults in need to 25% by 2020/21.

It also recommends the introduction of a new grade of GP: 'The Department of Health and NHS England should work with the RCGP and HEE to ensure that by 2020 all GPs, including the 5,000 joining the workforce by 2020/21, receive core mental health training, and to develop a new role of GPs with an extended Scope of Practice (GPwER) in Mental Health, with at least 700 in practice within five years.’

It adds that GPs and ambulance staff were considered one of the 'most caring' health professionals according to patients with mental health problems, but that practices needed to do more to look after the physical health of patients in this group.

It says: 'NHS England should also lead work to ensure that by 2020/21, 280,000 more people living with severe mental illness have their physical health needs met by increasing early detection and expanding access to evidence-based physical care assessment and intervention.

'This will involve developing, evaluating and implementing models of primary care whereby GPs and practice nurses take responsibility for delivering the full suite of physical care screenings, outreach, carer training and onward interventions or referrals, in line with NICE guidelines.

'This model should include outreach workers or carer training to support people to access primary care because many people with psychosis struggle to access services, and give GPs and practice nurses the training and time they need to deliver NICE concordant screening and care.'

Responding to the report, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said that the health service was 'committed' to pursuing the aims of the report: 'Putting mental and physical health on an equal footing will require major improvements in seven day mental health crisis care, a large increase in psychological treatments, and a more integrated approach to how services are delivered.'

Prime Minister David Cameron said: ’For too long there hasn’t been enough focus on mental health care in this country meaning too many have had to suffer in silence. The taskforce has set out how we can work towards putting mental and physical healthcare on an equal footing and I am committed to making sure that happens.'

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said the report was 'ambitious and admirable' and she repeated her call for all practices to have direct access to mental health workers. She added: 'This way our patients can access these important and effective services when they need them, not 28 days or more later, as is currently often the case.'


Readers' comments (26)

  • Is there going to be anyone left in primary care by 2020 to work in mental health?

    Probably those that remain in the UK as health professionals will be in need of mental health services due to burnout, breakdown or risk of suicide.

    They can talk as much as they like about what is needed but you can bet your bottom dollar there wont be any funding to make this happen. Whats most likely judging by the governments modus operandi is that existing doctors will probably be hounded to provide this pro bono or if there is funding it will probably be removed after a year or so or diverted from some other core area to pay for this new scheme.

    perhaps its the cynic in me, i just feel that theres never been a worse time to be a GP!!!


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  • And the reason why mental health teams can't get this rushing is ?... General practice mean"general" not specialist ; who is going to be k ft to the gp stuff then...

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  • I see where they are coming from and it is actually an excellent idea in theory. GPwSIs in many specialties have done a lot of excellent service provision in the community and kept themselves interested in GP by having an area of specialist interest as well.

    Shame we don't have, say, an extra 5000 or so GPs in training...

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  • Problem is that the number of kids with ASD alone has by some experts been predicted to affect one out of ever two children in just twenty years time!
    Getting a few gps trained up would be a waste of time. There is no way they could ever cope with the problem of even just autism by themselves.
    This is just utter rubbish and a complete failure to deal with the current and future major problem of learning disorders.
    All gps need to be trained to recognise these problems but diagnosing and treating these health issues take so much time, again longer than is possible in a regular 10 minute slot.

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  • The problem of autism is also paralleled with other learning disorders such as dyslexia and dysgraphia as these disinsentivise kids from learning or going to school as they find it impossibly hard to read or write, so they become 'lazy'as their brains can never succeed in doing what they are meant to do. Them they start trying to get out of lessons and failure at school leads to more mental health problems. There is a ticking timebomb here with the potential for a lost generation of kids whose disorders have not been recognised.
    However where are the gps who could deal with this avalanch of work??? I am overwhelmed as once the word gets round that some one is interested in these issues, then the flood gates open. Each child take hours of work and this continues as they grow. The above comment is correct, an extra 5000 gps would be helpful. Indeed the extent of the problem of learning disorders are such that they could use these mythical 5000 in their own right, yet still need more.

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  • 700? is this from the same pool of extra 5,000 GPs that the govt keeps on promising?

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  • Absurd- there aren't enough GPs to do standard work. All these task forces with their initiatives seem to work entirely isolated from reality. Does the report indicate where the resources for this are coming from? If it doesn't in a plain reality based practical way it should go straight in the bin.

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  • Vinci Ho

    You see
    Darth Vader thought he was the typical one man band crusader again , just like striking a so called deal with EU paving way to the referendum . 'Committed' , seriously? What is the reality ,Vader?

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  • ensure enough high quality highly trained psych gps/nurses/consultants/health care workers are available 7 days a week for all and sundry at no extra cost. sound familiar?

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  • my task force assessment report:
    1. need to train more GPs to first do GP work.
    2. get rid of the convenience medicine: get some payment for appts to reduce demand.
    3. stop dreaming of 7d service.
    4. stop any more studies/reports etc until the basics of current standards are secure.
    5. ask NICE politely to stop recommending excellent! guidance which increases burden on GPs. we are already stretched.

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